I was wrong. I said that the Republican convention would be sedate and wouldn’t generate the same kind of excitement that provided the Democrats such favorable auspices for their candidate’s final phase campaign launch. I “misunderestimated” the effect of Sarah Palin’s most excellent performance on her party’s convention.
Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee spoke. Ho hum. Michael Steele spoke. Yawn. I thought we were in for a boring evening.
However, Rudy Giuliani’s delayed keynote speech was the beginning of a crescendo that would ramp up all the way through Sarah Palin’s speech to the final coda with her family and John McCain on the podium.
Rudy was good. He was funny. He hit at the Democrats’ weaknesses. He showed toughness, forcefulness, and grit, but his delivery was as if he was talking to the guy sitting next to him at the neighborhood Irish pub. He has that smooth stage presence that goes with being a big-time political player for a long time. But tonight, he was the warm-up speaker.
When Guiliani finished, I was surprised by the quick introduction of Governor Sarah Palin, even before the applause for Rudy had died down. The response to Palin’s appearance on stage was raucous, boisterous, and welcoming. This standing ovation went on for far longer than anyone had anticipated, and resisted attempts by floor marshalls to end it by getting everyone to sit down.
So, given all this overwhelming build-up and adulation, you would think that a newcomer to the national political arena would shake a little bit, if not melt in total panic. Sarah Palin ate it up and spit it out. She delivered a well written, well prepared, and very effective speech. And to coin a phrase employed by the Mouse’s loyal opposition, she of the red hair (formerly), she rocked the house.
Not only that, she pissed off the Obama people big time. Heretofore, they thought they had the upper hand, given Palin’s inexperience on the national political stage. The liberal press had been lampooning her for not knowing the Washington ropes, not appearing on Meet the Press, and so forth. Governor Palin’s speech threw that all back at them. Now, I’m not saying that she delivered a knockout punch—not in that way, anyway—but what I am saying is that her opponents, whether politicians or media, now know that she is no pushover.
The media and the Obama campaign will be back at her throat in the morning, if not sooner, because they fear that if their assaults abate even for a little while, Palin’s appeal to the swing voters will incontrovertably surmount their criticism.
She stepped into the vice presidential candidate’s attack dog role with ease, doing so with humor yet with unflinching inner toughness, leading the opposition to warn quickly that glibness doesn’t work, therefore Palin is in big trouble. Weak, flimsy argument. They can’t debate the substance of the speech, so they condemn its style. This Mouse feels that in the paraphrased words of Al Jolson, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Yes, I was impressed.
Did Palin benefit by low expectations? Certainly. Neither I nor most of the people on the convention floor knew what to expect. I started out just hoping that she wouldn’t screw up. What I got was a polished political speech that was as good as any I’d heard at the highest level, but by politicians with long resumes. I think Governor Palin’s freshness on the national political scene worked in her favor and her speech writer deserves a great deal of credit for working with her to take advantage of it.
That brings me to the inital Democratic response to the Palin speech—that it was written by a Bush Administration speech writer, and her running mate voted 90% with George W. Bush, and we can’t take a 10% chance on change. Huh? A bit of a non sequitur there, isn’t it? That rhetoric is getting very tired very fast in its constant repetition as the phrase for all occasions. Besides, that 90% correlation thing has been debunked not only by this Mouse, but also by none other than the left-leaning National Public Radio. Someone needs to bring out the corresponding percentages for Biden and Obama (when he voted). Many of the bills that pass through the senate are not concerned with partisan issues but with innocuous items palatable to both sides of the aisle, for example, a bill honoring Michael Phelps for his Olympics performance. But I digress.
What remains to be seen, of course, is how Palin will hold up in the long run, in more extemporaneous settings. If she can produce this type of performance in a head-to-head debate with a long time Beltway insider, namely, Joe Biden, she will do her part to boost this ticket’s chances. How she handles hecklers at stump speeches and the continual negative harangue by the mainstream media and the rogue bloggers is also crucial. If she is not quick on her feet in these interactive situations, she will be a drag on the ticket; if she performs flawlessly, she will be a tremendous boon to the GOP’s chances in 2008. She has performed well in debates with entrenched politicians in Alaska, which portends well for her. This will be very interesting to watch.
Her line about Obama’s acceptance speech’s vague promises bears mention because of its impact on the audience. “But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot—what exactly is our opponent’s plan?” Great fun and effective, too.
I’ve seen the MSM’s and liberal bloggers’ early takes on the speech, calling it, “immature,” “contentless,” and “a series of cheap shots,” to cite a few sampled comments. In other words, they are worried. That ought to keep them on their toes.
The big problem will be McCain’s at this point—to deliver a meaningful and memorable speech tomorrow night. He won’t have a stadium full of people, and he won’t have Greek columns, only his less than charismatic style and some hopefully sincere words. However, he’s up against a lot. Not only is Palin an impossibly tough act to follow, but Thursday night is the NFL season’s opening night extravaganza. You can expect that the Republican convention’s TV ratings will drop significantly from tonight’s peak. Many convention weary viewers will be watching the Redskins battle the Giants. Last, but not least, it is no coincidence that Barack Obama’s campaign people have agreed for Obama to be interviewed by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday night as well. You have to feel for McCain, being up against all that. I don’t know what he can do to bring off a successful speech, let alone eclipse the home run hit by Palin. I’d be tempted to mail it in. But McCain won’t. He’s an old trouper.
The Mouse must now go raid the pantry. It’s late and I have to feed my family.